‘Come, Come, Ye Saints’ Site Marked by Plaque
September 1990

“‘Come, Come, Ye Saints’ Site Marked by Plaque,” Ensign, Sept. 1990, 80

“Come, Come, Ye Saints” Site Marked by Plaque

On the morning of 15 April 1846, at a spot near Locust Creek in southern Iowa, William Clayton composed a hymn that has become known to generations of Latter-day Saints as “Come, Come, Ye Saints.”

Until recently, no one knew exactly where this great song of the Latter-day Saint exodus was written. But now, through the work of two men—an LDS history professor and an Iowa history buff—the location has been fixed within a half-mile area, and a plaque has been placed nearby to mark the spot.

The plaque was dedicated on July 1, under the auspices of Iowa’s Wayne County Historical Society, at the Tharp Cemetery near Locust Creek, fifteen miles southeast of Corydon, Iowa.

Stanley B. Kimball, a professor of historical studies at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, offered the dedicatory prayer. Brother Kimball had been researching the location of the site since 1972.

Local history buff Elbert Pidcock, a retired mail carrier and member of the Wayne County Historical Society, was honored during the program for his work in locating the site. He and Brother Kimball cooperated in the research and shared the fieldwork on the project.

More than 125 local residents and Church members attended the dedicatory program. Bishop Charles Graves of the Osceola Ward, Des Moines Iowa Stake, gave the invocation, and Joseph Walt, a Latter-day Saint member of the board of the Iowa State Historical Society, headquartered in Des Moines, greeted those in attendance.

Loren Horton, coordinator of field services for the State Historical Society of Iowa, headquartered in Iowa City, spoke of the hardships endured by the first group of LDS pioneers, who, fighting cold, wet weather, found Iowa in the late winter and early spring one of the hardest parts of their journey. “Because of the trek through Iowa, perhaps the later hardships were easier to endure,” he said. “And because William Clayton wrote such a great rallying hymn, those Saints who continued in 1846 and who came during the succeeding six years had their hearts uplifted and their burdens lightened.”

The marker placed at the Tharp Cemetery explains that “Come, Come, Ye Saints” was written by Brother Clayton, an English convert, in response to news of the birth of a son to his wife, Diantha, in Nauvoo. The new hymn was set to a popular English folk tune, “All Is Well.”

William Clayton was camp clerk for the advance group of pioneers led by Brigham Young, who crossed the frozen Mississippi into Iowa in February. Their progress through Iowa was slow, but things had begun to improve. Then, just 106 miles west of Nauvoo, Brother Clayton wrote in his journal on April 15: “This morning Ellen [Sanders] Kimball … came to me and wished me much joy. She said Diantha has a son. … Truly I feel to rejoice. … This morning I composed a new song—‘All is well.’ I feel to thank my heavenly father for my boy.”

Church Historian Andrew Jensen began research on the location where this hymn was composed in 1927. Interest in pinpointing the spot grew after the 1973 opening of “The Hymn That Went Around the World,” an LDS pioneer display in the Wayne County Historical Society Museum in Corydon. That exhibit, a cooperative venture between the Church and the historical society, was dedicated by Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Quorum of the Twelve.

A plaque at a nearby cemetery refers to the site, uphill from Locust Creek and beyond the three distant trees, where the hymn was written. (Photos by Stanley B. Kimball.)